The Hidden Jewel of Wyoming


On our recent trip to northwestern Wyoming, we became part of the approximately 4 million people who will visit Yellowstone in 2017. As I talked to other travelers in the visitor center near Old Faithful, I realized that many were unaware of the other national park just south of Yellowstone. They had no idea what they were missing. So, I wanted to make sure you, dear reader, don't miss out on this hidden jewel.

Just 10 miles south of Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park is easily one of the most beautiful parks in America. Encompassing three major peaks, as well as much of the valley north of Jackson, the terrain provides a striking backdrop for wildlife viewing. And its glacier-hewn mountains are visually stunning.

Driving the scenic loop through the park without stopping would take less than an hour. However, you'll want to plan on stopping at the pull-offs to get a better look at the glacier, lakes and the Snake River. There's much less traffic here than at Yellowstone, so take your time and enjoy nature.

Most of the restaurants and lodges in this area seem to start serving breakfast at 7 am. That's less than ideal if you want to see wildlife, so I recommend starting your day with a light snack so you can hit the road early. Why?

Bison, also popularly known as buffaloes, graze in the open fields in the morning. You won't want to miss them. Unlike at Yellowstone, we were able to watch this herd in relative solitude. It was a peaceful experience. Something not to be missed.

Just be sure to use the zoom on your camera. Don't get too close. Bison are wild; they are fast; and they can injure you if they feel threatened.

Tucked back closer to the mountains is beautiful Jenny Lake. We took a one-way unpaved road to get back to see it. While back there, we had black bear cubs amble out in front of our car to cross the road. It really is a magical!

For hikers, Jenny Lake boating offers shuttles across the lake to the Cascade Canyon trailhead. From there you can hike up to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. For those who don't hike, they also offer scenic boat tours.

If you're a photographer, dawn and sunset are going to be some of your best options for capturing the best shots. The light against the mountains and over the lakes provides the perfect opportunity. We stopped at the Jackson Lake marina at dusk, and the post-rainstorm sky was a hazy pink.

If you're planning a trip to Wyoming, don't miss Grand Teton National Park. Find out more information at https://www.nps.gov/grte/index.htm.

Honoring a Shoshone Woman Who Helped Shape America


During a recent trip to Wyoming, we had the opportunity to visit the Wind River Reservation. Situated along Highway 287, this home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapahoe is often visited by those who want to try their luck at the largest casino closest to Yellowstone. However, we stopped here for a different reason.

Off the beaten path, a couple miles from the highway, there’s a quiet cemetery positioned on top of a lonely hill. Driving by it doesn’t appear to be much, but inside lies someone whose name is legendary — Sacajawea.

For those who aren’t familiar — and those who need a refresher — Sacajawea was a member of the Shoshone tribe who helped guide the explorers Lewis and Clark on their expedition west. She helped them establish relationships with the indigenous tribes they encountered in the Louisiana Purchase territory, which was credited as an integral part of their success. Lewis and Clark even named a river after her in what is now Montana.

At the cemetery near Fort Washakie, Wyoming, there’s a statue erected in her honor. In this likeness, Sacagawea holds up a sand dollar like the one she presented to Chief Washakie of the Shoshone following her trip to the Pacific. (Of course, it also reminded us of the gold coin that now bears her likeness.)

People leave flowers and trinkets at the base of the statue in her memory. It’s obvious that she still holds a special place in the hearts of the Shoshone people.

Nearby, you can also see the headstone of Sacajawea and her son. The headstone stands out as taller than the rest, located near a small cabin. On the day we were here, the grass and weeds seemed especially long, so rattlesnakes were a concern. We decided to stick to the statue and not trek to see the grave. However, just taking the time to stop and remember this courageous woman was very special, and we were glad we did it.

If you’re driving on Highway 287 on your journey to Yellowstone, be sure to pay a visit. At Fort Washakie, turn left at the Sinclair gas station. Follow the road for about a half mile. When you get to the fork in the road, keep left. After about a quarter of a mile, the road will bend to the right. Keep following the road. Drive about a mile, and you’ll see the cemetery up on the hill on your left. It’s surrounded by tall flag poles. You’ll technically turn left on Cemetery Lane to get there, but the street sign has lost it’s lettering. So keep an eye out for the flagpoles on the hill to help guide you. Once up on the hill, you’ll be able to easily park near the Sacagawea statue.